Romelu Lukaku – What did you say about slowness and awkwardness?
I sometimes wonder how hard life must be for a Premier League footballer. The ball passes before you know it is coming; you must adapt to overcome the ever-increasing number of complicated traps set for them, set off by tactical minds informed of endless data. Intrusive cameras and microphones are arrayed in mesh by puppeteers wearing Rolexes. The rabid, billion-strong fan base that powers it all. No player of the past decade – a decade in which these forces seem to have multiplied exponentially – have overcome their obstacles like Romelu Lukaku. On his return to the Premier League, and to the club that snatched the top scorer in the Belgian League from the security of his home country, plunging him into the lion’s den amid a firestorm that is Chelsea Abramovich and the world’s most visible athletic competition, the endless debates that follow him are in a radically different tone from those that fueled the opinion pieces and podcasts surrounding his previous fate.
Watching Romelu at West Brom, we witnessed a rallying force that seemed to become more and more deadly every week: a player whose movements were too precise, his body shapes too opaque, and an urge to score too relentless. so that we do not recognize a man destined to ruin the lives of defenders at the highest echelons of football. For the British press and many of its football fans who found a new and more impactful voice on social media, however, there was a problem. Romelu is a dark-skinned man. For most in this country, this does not create a quagmire of overtly racist criticism, but rather constitutes a dark undercurrent; a deep hole in the earth filled with the gnashing of hungry teeth for a sign of weakness, an opportunity to expose a flaw in someone that to them is just another feature of their entertainment product. It is a characteristic that they ridicule more than others because they are afraid of him. They sing songs the length of his penis and describe his rhythm and power with bestial undertones because they can’t cope with the confident and unperturbed aura he projects, walking past our best defenders and bypassing them. attempts by our media to entangle it in their web of games. They joke about satanic voodoo rituals because they can’t handle how comfortable he is in “their” space, how artfully he maneuvers the traps of gluttonous super-agents and club-seeking environments. suffocate, rather than stoke his supreme talent.
Romelu chose Roc Nation over Mino Raiola and Serie A over the Premier League, where other players may have been pushed into the glitzy but hollow attributes that come with what he left behind. Romelu left a toxic Old Trafford, choosing Inter in favor of a Juventus guaranteed Scudetto because “Inter is not for everyone”. It is devotion to his craft and obsession with constant challenge that informs his career decisions. He must feel valued because he knows both his worth and what it is like to play for a club where he is not valued. Rather than a guaranteed title alongside superstars, he chooses a project in full development of which he will be both the catalyst and the heart. At San Siro, the thorny vines that struggled to hold him back withered and fell, Romelu’s fire accelerated with the essence of a hungry team, and with the concentrated ferocity of an Antonio Conte project that knew exactly the figurehead he had acquired, and with which he would wrap and incinerate Juve’s stranglehold on the league that had started a decade earlier, as Lukaku refused to accept the 2012 Champions League trophy that he felt his participation (or absence) was not deserving.
At Inter, Lukaku has become what he had always been. For two full seasons, Italy hosted the most complete striker in the world, and this world that had been trying for so long to degrade him and denounce him were forced to reckon with something they had always tried to deny . Amidst the viral compilations of ‘donkey’ touches, chants of monkeys in the Italian stands and comment sections of the ‘soccer jokes’ pages on Instagram, Lukaku has always known the player he is and where he should be. to be. It took a long time for the media and the consensus of fans around the world, but especially in the UK, to catch up with his personal vision, and that’s because Romelu has always been two steps ahead of them. In this modern game, where your profile, your personality and your image are as important as your performance, Lukaku has always been at home and at ease with himself, sure of knowing his own abilities, nurtured by a circle. close to family and counselors. which empowers its independent decision-making. He easily switches between languages in a post-match interview where he casually explains a Man of the Match performance. He adapts to a modern tactical standard in which the “big man up front” acts both as the creator and executor of an attack, doing so with an intelligence and grace that sets him apart even from the most popular superstars. most rented from the game.
Although he’s returning to the club that gave him his European top-flight debut, it doesn’t sound like the return of a club hero. Familiar surroundings will provide comfort and ease of transition, but these aren’t perks Lukaku needs – just happy coincidences. It feels like, returning to the UK as the world’s best striker in a brilliantly coached Champions League-winning draft, Romelu is there to humble his past detractors with a knowing laugh, becoming the focal point of a title charge with a presence and ability they never imagined, but that he felt within himself like the six-year-old who promised his mother that he would become professional footballer to support his family in difficulty.
Oh yes, the debates are different now. Now they are debating whether he could win a Balon D’Or, how many goals he could score to lead Chelsea to the title and whether there are any defenders who can actually stop him. There seems to be something inevitable about Romelu’s return, and even when you take in the highlights of his last goals in Italy over the past two years, he felt an air of unfinished business; that he was biding his time for when he could return to the Premier League and chase silver as a franchise player of a top club, just as he had promised during his performances at Everton and the United debut. This moment is now, and this moment is his moment. As a Liverpool fan I’m scared, but as a football fan I can’t wait.